LANESBOROUGH — With the pandemic raging in the summer of 2020, Joe Prince was looking for a space from which he could operate his antiques business when he came across the run-down former Vacation Village sales center, which had been vacant for 12 years or so.
Vegetation was overgrown, some of the wooden sidewalks were warped and buckled, there was water damage from minor flooding in some of the buildings, and there was a partially collapsed shed in the center of the property.
“It was perfect,” Prince said. “My thought was that my dream came true.”
Flash forward two years, and we find Prince owning and operating three businesses in three leased buildings at the site, now called The Village at Greylock, and two other owners opened new businesses in the remaining structure. The buildings are surrounded by well-tended lawns and gardens, the buildings look up to date with a quaint New England feel, and bright colors and other creative touches give it a fun and comforting ambiance.
His first step was to open his antique shop, which he named Berkshire Mantiques. Having been a collector for years, he especially liked collecting old signs from long-gone businesses. His shop now has thousands of items for sale. He said the landlord, Normal K Realty, was proactive in cleaning up the property and repairing the structures.
“The landlord stepped up and took care of it,” Prince said.
He opened on Oct. 1, 2020. Then he started thinking again. His thought was to use a building in the rear of the property to establish a wholesale coffee pod assembly operation.
Working with grounds produced at No. Six Depot in West Stockbridge, he did some experimenting with different combinations of coffee grounds. Prince found the “perfect” mix of coffee grounds to fill the pods, which fit into Keurig-type coffee machines. He chose to use biodegradable, compostable pods, and set up an assembly line for packaging, which includes boxing and labeling. He named the product Greylock Grounds.
Prince launched the operation about three months after opening Mantiques.
Since then, he has lined up a number of businesses to purchase and sell his product, including Guido’s Fresh Marketplace, Whole Foods, Wild Oats Market, Big Y and other retail stores.
Once that was set, Prince’s mind kept going back to the old broken-down shed adjacent to the antique shop. After some ruminating, he figured that would be a great spot for a drive-through coffee and snack shack.
Working with the landlord, they put up a new structure, about the same size as the shed, complete with food prep and cooking equipment, and launched the Greylock Grounds Coffee Drive-Through, which opened a little over two months ago.
Since then, he’s added a bright yellow walkway for customers who want to stop in and eat outside on the picnic tables. The menu is varied and inventive. A plastic clown chef displays part of the menu, and drive-thru customers place their order where the miniature Statue of Liberty stands.
“We knew we needed this for the synergy here,” Prince said. He said he employs eight to 10 local young adults part time, depending on the season.
The colorful drive-thru, along with several antique cars and truck dotting the parking lot, adds to the intriguing feel of the new retail enclave. To enhance the center’s appeal even more, Prince said, he hosts a family-friendly party every Friday and Saturday with live music outdoors, and a car show every other Friday.
After the snack shack opened, there was still space to be occupied on the compound, but Prince’s hands were full.
But Anna Bradbury’s weren’t, and she was in the market for a retail opportunity. After looking at the open space at what is now known as The Village at Greylock, she liked it, although there was a good bit of water mediation and renovation needed.
She opened Lanesborough Local in October 2021, and the store will celebrate its one-year anniversary on Columbus Day weekend. The store features grocery staples, which locals find to be very helpful since the former local grocery store closed down several years earlier. There is also a deli and a florist, and there is a gift shop featuring locally handcrafted items.
“We have had a lot of local support,” Bradbury said. “It’s always nice to hear people say, ‘We’re so glad you’re here now.’ And we’re trying to offer a lot more grocery items.”
She said the operation fits right into her vision of what she was hoping for.
“I always wanted to have a little country store, and I felt there was a need in the area,” Bradbury said. “We’ve been very fortunate that people like it. It makes it all worthwhile.”
So with the general store added to the mix, about six months later a beauty salon moved into the remaining space next to Lanesboro Local.
Root 7 Salon opened on March 9. Owner Trista Nowak rented five of the six chairs to other local beauticians, and it’s been full speed ahead ever since.
Nowak had been working at other salons in the Pittsfield area for 20 years, and finally decided to go out on her own.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think it would become a reality,” she said.
While all members of the team brought many of their longtime clients with them, they started seeing plenty of walk-in, first-time customers from all around the central Berkshire region, Nowak said.
She says the retail center she wound up in is perfect.
“It was a real ghost town for so many years, and now it’s just beautiful,” she said. “I love it.”